US marshal role for John Wayne / TUE 2-20-18 / Consumer giant that makes Bounty / Credit card designation / French author who said intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday)


THEME: LEXICOGRAPHERS (51A: Ones who produced the clues for 20-, 25- and 45-Across) — theme clues are written as dictionary definitions; theme answers are familiar phrases that, when taken differently, can appear to be asking for a literal definition of one of the words in those phrases. Thus:

Theme answers:
  • "HIGH" DEFINITION (20A: adj. under the influence of a drug) (the clue is a definition of "high")
  • "OVER" EXPLAINED (25A: adv. across a barrier or intervening space) (the clue is an explanation of "over")
  • MEANING OF "LIFE" (45A: n. spirit, animation) (the clue is the dictionary meaning of "life") 
Word of the Day: GOGO (58A: Big name in in-flight internet) —
Gogo Inc. is a provider of in-flight broadband Internet service and other connectivity services for commercial and business aircraft, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. 17 airlines partner with Gogo to provide in-flight WiFi, including British AirwaysAer LingusIberiaGol linhas aereasBeijing CapitalAeromexicoAmerican AirlinesAir CanadaAlaska AirlinesDelta Air LinesJapan AirlinesJTAUnited AirlinesHainan AirlinesVirgin AmericaVietnam Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. Gogo Inc. is a holding company, operating through its two subsidiaries, Gogo LLC and Aircell Business Aviation Services LLC (now Gogo Business Aviation Inc.). According to Gogo, over 2,500 commercial aircraft and 6,600 business aircraft have been equipped with its onboard Wi-Fi services. The company is also the developer of 2Ku, the new in-flight (satellite solution) Wi-Fi technology. (wikipedia)
• • •

Cute, but (for me) hilariously misplaced on a Tuesday. I was north of my average Wednesday time, nowhere my normal Tuesday range of times. I had zero conception of the theme until I was done. I just knew that the clues had nothing to do with the answers in any way that I could see, so I had to get every one of them via crosses, hacking at them until they looked like something, and then filling in the blanks. This meant I also had trouble with the front end of LEXICOGRAPHERS. (P.S. LEXICOGRAPHERS did not "produce the clues"; only editors or constructors can do that, so the clue is simply wrong without a "?" on it). There was also a lot of hard stuff and "?" stuff in the N/NE that slowed me down considerably. But no matter. The concept is pretty good. The first themer is the best one, because it repurposes the meaning of "definition." The others are literalizations without the concomitant shift in the meaning of the lexicographical word, i.e. that is, no new meaning for "meaning," no new meaning for "explained." But insofar as "high," "over," and "life" are all being isolated and treated as words, in dictionary definition fashion, the theme is consistent and fine.

[XTC should be in puzzles more often]

That whole area east of (and including) BLUDGEON was very rough for me. Needed half the crosses even to see BLUDGEON, and then CAHILL (????) (8D: U.S. marshal role for John Wayne). No idea. None. Not even a movie in the clue? (Not that that would've helped). Have watched many John Wayne movies. Many. No idea about CAHILL. Zero. . . OK, now that I look it up, the name of the movie *is* "CAHILL"??? Since when is that famous, let alone Tuesday famous? Dear lord. Full title: "CAHILL: U.S. Marshal" (1973). This isn't even in the top half of Wayne movies, fame-wise, success-wise, I'm gonna guess quality-wise. No idea why you'd put it in a Tuesday. Or even a Wednesday (which, as we've established, this puzzle should've been). So that was a disaster. Moving east from there, the two "?" clues both stymied me. They're both OK clues, but BARTENDS (10D: Makes the rounds?) and SUMO (12D: Battle of the bulges?) held me up and made CAMUS and TROMP much harder to get. Also, like I know who makes Bounty paper towels (PANDG = P&G = Proctor & Gamble —that type of answer, letter+AND+letter = "ampersandwich"; see, for example, BANDB, AANDP, RANDB, etc.). I don't use "in-flight internet" so GOGO was nono for me. And I had no (literally no) idea that The Huffington Post was HUFFPOST at all, let alone *officially* (38D: Popular left-leaning news site). I have only ever heard HUFFPO, which still seems like a much much better, more in-the-language abbr. for that org.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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Shakespearean cries / MON 2-19-18 / Uncle Sam's land for short / Hybrid picnic utensil / Onetime Pontiac muscle car

Monday, February 19, 2018

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for a Monday) (30 seconds over average time)


THEME: president names + a random letter, anagrammed for some reason...

Theme answers:
  • LIFEGUARD (17A: GARFIELD + U = Beach V.I.P.)
  • AND SO AM I (26A: MADISON + A = "Me, too!")
  • FILM LOVER (39A: FILLMORE + V = Movie buff)
  • HAND GRIP (54A: HARDING + P = Squeezable exercise tool)
  • POLICE DOG (66A: COOLIDGE + P = Narc's four-footed helper)
U + A + V + P + P = ............ ?????? UV APP? VA PUP? I'm sure it's something presidential...

Word of the Day: Queen of SHEBA (58D: Queen of ___ (visitor of King Solomon, in the Bible)) —
The Queen of Sheba is a Biblical and Quranic figure. The tale of her visit to King Solomon has undergone extensive Jewish, Islamic, and Ethiopian elaborations, and has become the subject of one of the most widespread and fertile cycles of legends in the Orient. //  The queen of Sheba (מַלְכַּת־שְׁבָא‬, "malkat-šəḇā" in the Hebrew Bible, βασίλισσα Σαβὰ in the Septuagint, Syriac ܡܠܟܬ ܫܒܐ, Ethiopic ንግሥተ፡ሳባእ፡) came to Jerusalem "with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones" (I Kings 10:2). "Never again came such an abundance of spices" (10:10; II Chron. 9:1–9) as those she gave to Solomon. She came "to prove him with hard questions," which Solomon answered to her satisfaction. They exchanged gifts, after which she returned to her land. (wikipedia)
• • •

We need to talk about how objectively bad this puzzle is. Is it performance art? That is the only reasonable explanation I can think of. It's a parody of a bad idea designed to elicit bafflement and anger in people who actually care about good puzzles. Maybe I'm on camera right now? I'm not even angry, I'm just blinking in stunned bemusement. The theme clues are bonkers, esp. for a Monday. Visually painful and confusing. Further: totally unnecessary. I mercifully figured out fairly early on that I did not need to even look at the first part of the theme clues. I just read the post-"=" part and that ended up working just fine. Let's talk specifically about why this is a substandard puzzle. There are two main reasons: the added letters have no rationale, and the anagramming has no rationale. Random added letters, anagrams happening for no reason. Add to that the fact that you can do what I did—just ignore the presidential word math part—and still solve it (i.e. the fact that the theme is irrelevant and ignorable) and, I hope, you can see why this just isn't up to snuff. It's quite baffling that this puzzle was accepted for publication by anyone, let alone the outlet that continues to call itself "The Best Puzzle in the World." People seem to think that I have it in for Will, or for this constructor, or blah blah blah, but I promise you, talk to *any* experienced constructor, and, while they may not use language as strong as mine, they will tell you what's wrong with this puzzle right quick, and the reasons they give will overlap substantially with my own.


AND SO AM I is so weak, especially as a themer. Forced and awkward and anti-climactic. And HANDGRIP isn't much better—I had no idea those squeezy thingies even had a name. Are there really no better PRESIDENT + LETTER anagrams out there? These themers are generally a SAD LOT. Why doesn't this puzzle do *anything* well?! I can't stop laughing at LAY EGGS (48D: What hens do), which is about as scintillating and stand-alone worthy as EAT FOOD or DRIVE CARS. Also, and this is an undeniable editing gaffe, you can't have a clue with "eggs" in it anywhere when EGGS is in the grid, and you *especially* can't have it in the clue for an answer that both means "EGGS" *and* crosses your EGGS answer (53A: Lab eggs = OVA). I teach Shakespeare and had no idea AYS were [Shakespearean cries]. Don't blame Shakespeare for your bad fill. I will say one nice thing about this puzzle: it has a dog in it. Nothing with dog in it can be all bad. Just, you know, substantially bad. I DIG and I FOLD right next to each other? Really. OK, I FOLD, good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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